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Saturday, 29 November 2008

S'porean hostage killed

From Straits Times.com

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_308041.html


THE Mumbai terror attacks claimed a Singaporean victim when lawyer Lo Hwei Yen, 28, was confirmed among the dead last night.

She is the first Singaporean to die in a terrorist attack.

The tragic task of identifying her body fell to her husband, Mr Michael Puhaindran, who had flown to Mumbai on Thursday night.

The couple held their wedding in Bali only in June last year.

Mr Puhaindran, 37, last heard from his wife through two phone calls she made to him on Thursday after being taken hostage at The Oberoi Trident Hotel.

She had gone to Mumbai on Wednesday to attend a business seminar and it was meant to be only a one-night trip.

Last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the worst had happened.

Her body, found on the 19th floor of the hotel, was identified at 9.35pm Singapore time by Mr Puhaindran, accompanied by the High Commissioner and an aunt.

She was among 24 Oberoi hotel hostages found dead yesterday.

Acting Prime Minister S. Jayakumar said in a statement last night that he and his Cabinet colleagues were painfully saddened, and added that all Singaporeans shared the family's grief.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also expressed sadness, saying that he had attended the couple's wedding last year.

Ms Lo's father-in-law, Mr Stanley Puhaindran, has been a long-time grassroots leader in Mr Goh's Marine Parade constituency. SM Goh visited the family last night.

Over at the home of Ms Lo's parents in Lower Delta, her younger sisters Hwei Shan, 25, and Hwei Rong, 23, had been waiting anxiously all day for news.

Ms Lo was the eldest of the three children of a businessman and housewife. Her father has been away on business but was returning home, the family said.

A law graduate of the National University of Singapore, Ms Lo worked with Stephenson Harwood, a foreign law firm based here.

She called her husband twice from Mumbai on Thursday, Hwei Shan told The Straits Times.

In the first call at 2am on Thursday, she said that she had heard gunfire and the hotel staff had told her to move to another level.

In her second call, at about 6am, she said that she had been taken hostage.

Foreign Affairs Ministry official Jai S. Sohan confirmed last night that Ms Lo had passed her husband a message from her captors.

An Indian news channel had reported that the terrorists had held the woman at gunpoint and ordered her to tell the Singapore Government to tell the Mumbai authorities to refrain from acting against them, or she would lose her life.

Mr Sohan said the ministry conveyed the message to the Indian authorities at a very senior level.

'We ask for your understanding as we could not confirm this earlier as the situation at that time was fluid and fast-evolving. It was also not appropriate at that time for us to do so for operational reasons,' he added.

Ms Lo's husband left for Mumbai on Thursday evening, accompanied by an aunt and ministry officials.

Family members in Singapore kept monitoring the news closely hoping for any hint that she might be safe.

But they began to fear the worst at about 5pm yesterday, when her husband got word that her wallet and handbag had been found.

He and his aunt were with Singapore diplomats keeping vigil near the Oberoi when news came that more bodies had been found inside.

They were led inside to identify the body and came out looking shaken.

Mr Puhaindran and Foreign Ministry officials broke the tragic news to the family here at 10pm, just before the ministry held a press conference that was broadcast live on television.

'She was bubbly, cheerful and very protective of us as the older sister,' said Hwei Shan.

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